Heading to lovely San Diego? Lucky you! While most people think the absolute best time to visit southern California is during the summer months, if you are looking for great deals on flights and hotels, consider visiting between March and May or September and November. Prices tend to be higher during the winter months and the summer months.
With super weather, the temperatures in San Diego are pretty consistent year-round and average between 60F (15.5C) and 70F (21C) degrees. There really is not a horrible time to visit unless you are in search of fantastic sunny days. San Diego does tend to be more overcast during May and June. Most of the rain falls during the winter, making visits to the beach a different experience than in the warmest of weather.
There are many world-famous and downright cool attractions and finding the best time to visit San Diego will really depend on what you are hoping to see and do while here. From sandy beaches to zoos and museums, you will definitely find plenty to keep you moving! And the chill attitude of the locals will quickly rub off on you when you are here.
Once you get to San Diego look for a place where you can leave your bags while you spend time exploring and learning more about this historic West Coast hub. Why lug extra gear along when in this bustling city filled with cool breezes, sunny beaches, and terrific attractions? Stow your day pack or shopping purchases as you move from one neighborhood to another. With so much to experience, you'll want to move fast!
Summer in San Diego: June to August
There are plenty of fun festivals and sunny beaches to visit during the summer months from June to August. Average temperatures for summer in San Diego are in the mid to high 70s Fahrenheit (20s in Celsius) making it ideal to lounge on the beach and soak up the sun or hit the boardwalk for an afternoon of spending time checking out the attractions.
Be aware of what many call the “June Gloom” when the sun seems to disappear more often than it shines. If you plan on visiting in July, expect to pay more for your hotel and even your rental car, if you need one. Comic-Con is one of the biggest events in San Diego and is held during July. Hotels fill up quickly and rates are usually higher, especially closer to downtown San Diego.
It is actually best to visit San Diego in August or early September to enjoy the later part of summer. There are fewer tourists near the end of August and hotel rates begin to drop. Fishing charters are fully booked throughout summer so if you are hoping to enjoy some fishing in the ocean, book with a charter company early.
There are several important events that take place during summer in San Diego including the San Diego International Beer Festival and Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, both held in June. The San Diego County Fair starts at the end of June and goes through the beginning of July. Comic-Con and San Diego Pride are both in July and the Del Mar Racing Season begins in July and runs through September.
Fall in San Diego: September to November
You do still see quite a few tourists during September, especially around Labor Day weekend as people try to soak up as much of the perfect San Diego weather as they can before heading back to their lives and daily routine. The temperatures through September still feel like summer. Get out and about as much as possible during this month.
Restaurant Week is also held in September and that is a huge draw for culinary aficionados from around the world. There are several culinary events held during this time and local foodies will also be vying for the best tickets and seats at these events so book everything before you arrive. Wine festivals are also rather popular during the fall months.
October through November sees the temperature begin to dip a bit with highs being in the upper 60s F and low 70s F (15-20C), which is still ideal weather for a quick getaway. With the big tourist crowds heading home and the summer fun coming to an end, hotels will start dropping their rates. Plan on getting a good deal on your accommodations.
San Diego’s hiking trails begin to see a lot of activity during the fall months. People want to get out of the city and see Mother Nature begin to change her summer dress into the more vibrant autumn colors that are stunning in the countryside. Hard-core surfers can still be found at the beaches, especially with the strong Santa Ana winds blowing in and making strong swells that are perfect for surfing.
September plays host to the Miramar Air Show, KABOO, and Restaurant Week, while October is a quieter month with Fleet Week, making it one of the best times to visit San Diego if you are looking to unwind. There are other smaller festivals that happen during October but those do not generally bring in the big touristy crowds.
November is a busy month and a great time to visit San Diego with San Diego Beer Week, San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival, The Wonderfront Music and Arts Festival, and Día de Los Muertos. Hotel rates do tend to rise slightly from October but are still cheaper than the summer rates.
Winter in San Diego: December to February
Winter in San Diego is definitely not snowmen and icicles, the average temperatures are in the 60s F (15-17C) but it has been known to dip into the high 40s (6-8C) at night or early morning. While you will not need fur boots and down-filled coats, you will want to bring a light jacket or sweater with you when you plan to visit San Diego in the winter.
Unless you are looking for a cool walk along the beach or hoping to sit around a fire while roasting marshmallows on the beach, you will want to probably steer clear of the beach when you visit during the cooler winter months. You will instead enjoy spending time in Balboa Park checking out the art galleries and museums that make this park so fabulous.
Winter is San Diego's rainy season. Rain showers occur frequently during the winter in San Diego, so make sure you have plenty of rainy-day activities up your sleeve so you can still see a lot of the city even if it is nasty weather outside. Shopping and museum hopping are two great rainy-day activities. Checking out the local food scene is also another fabulous thing to do when it is raining.
The temps may not be ideal for beach-goers, but they are still better than a large chunk of the country during the winter so if you want to get away to somewhere warmer, San Diego is definitely an option. Whale watching is a popular activity from December through March. Book your trip before you arrive to make sure there is space for you on one of the boats. You can sometimes see the whales from San Diego beaches.
Gray whales can be seen passing by San Diego beginning mid-December through late February as they make their way to Baja, California which is south of San Diego. The gray whales then make the return trip to the frigid Alaskan water during mid-March. They travel 12,000 miles, which is the longest migration of any known mammal on Earth. They travel along the San Diego coast during migration.
The best part about visiting San Diego during the winter months is the hotel rates, and usually, airfare is much cheaper than in the other seasons. There are not as many tourists visiting during this season as there are not as many festivals or special events that draw the out-of-towners.
December does see some festive activities such as the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights, Christmas Boat Parade, and Balboa Park December Nights. December is also when the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl takes place. New Year’s Eve is also quite a party in San Diego.
January has San Diego Restaurant Week and the Farmers Insurance Open which is a professional golf tournament on the PGA tour. If you are planning to hit the museums during February, it is San Diego Museum Month and there are great deals on admission to several museums.
Spring in San Diego: March to May
The wildflowers start to bloom beginning in early March, making the hiking trails in and around San Diego the place to be when you are looking to get outdoors and breathe in the fresh air. Spring really is the best time to visit San Diego as you watch nature wake up from its winter slumber. Dubbed America’s Finest City, San Diego is a great place to visit during any season but spring is especially nice.
The temperatures are mild, usually in the mid-60s (15-17C), making it a little chilly when the sun goes down; bring along a sweater or jacket for those cooler days. There are not as many visitors to the city during March and April but tourism seems to pick up more during May. Locals have given May the nickname “May Gray” because there is not as much sunshine as you would expect in southern California.
Visit the San Diego Zoo during the spring and see many of the new babies that are being born. Zoos during springtime generally see a lot of new babies being introduced to the public and naming contests and gimmicks throughout the zoo as a way to get the public involved in the preservation of endangered animals. The San Diego Zoo will have special announcements when new babies are born.
Flower lovers will want to head to the Coronado Flower Show, which is the biggest tented flower show in the U.S. and the Carlsbad Flower Fields are in full bloom during spring, they are magnificent by the beginning of May. Bring along your camera to snap calendar-worthy photos of the vibrant florals you will see while in San Diego in spring.
Visit during March for the Seaworld’s Seven Seas Craft Beer and Food Festival and San Diego Theatre Week. April does see more events on tap for locals and visitors including the San Diego Earth Fair, Coronado Flower Show, and the Mission Federal ArtWalk.
San Diego goes all out for Cinco de Mayo with the Fiesta Cinco de Mayo where everyone celebrates Mexican culture on May 5th with a huge city-wide party. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon is held in May and is the original race in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon which started in 1998.
When is the best time to visit San Diego for you?
Will you visit during the May Gray or June Gloom when many tourist attractions are beginning to come alive? Or will you wait to explore San Diego when the tourists are fewer and you can get in and out of attractions without too much hassle or long lines?
Seaworld San Diego and Embarcadero Marina Park North are terrific San Diego attractions that do get crowded during peak season. If there are specific attractions you want to see, either get your tickets early or plan to visit when there are fewer tourists about. Pack your bags, grab your friends and plan on spending a few days in San Diego no matter what season – this city is fun all year-round!
Know what you want to do during your trip to San Diego? Check out these guides for inspiration!